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With Day of the Dead looming, Chipotle ($CMG) is very much alive ahead of Q3 Earnings and strong foot traffic growth is coming.

Olvin - 25/10/2021

Key Points

  • Chipotle’s has been able to navigate the COVID-19 crisis generating revenue growth every quarter since Q3 2020;
  • The Mexican themed chain is experiencing slow foot traffic recovery, but the pace of growth is expected to rise in Q4 2021;
  • Despite still experiencing low foot traffic compared to pre-pandemic levels (visits in Q2 2021 were 49.21% lower than Q2 2019) the company has successfully transitioned to alternative models and grew revenue to achieve 31.95% increase on Q2 2019.

 

 

On the 21st of October Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) will report its earnings for the third quarter of 2021. Over the last 12 quarters the Mexican restaurant chain has beat earnings estimates 11 times, attracting investor’s attention and demonstrating its ability to navigate complicated market conditions.

In Q2 the company reported $7.46 EPS, 14.42% higher than the expected EPS, with total revenue just shy of $1.9Bln. Now the market is looking at Q3 earnings to assess the company’s ability to keep the growth streak going.

In this report, we look at Chipotle’s foot traffic performance over the past 3 years by looking at 1043 of its restaurants in the U.S. and look at the predictions for the 3rd and 4th quarter of 2021.

Looking at the pandemic

Similar to all other quick serve restaurants, Chipotle has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly due to the numerous lockdowns and regulations regarding the hospitality sector.

The chart below displays this impact with the cumulative number of visits for the aforementioned restaurants from the beginning of Q1 2019 to the end of Q3 2021.

Chart 1: monthly foot traffic over the last 11 quarters [data source: olvin.com]

At the beginning of the pandemic in Q1 2020 visits started to drop drastically, hitting their lowest point in Q2 2021 at 18 million visits (compared to 119 million the previous year). Ever since then, the recovery of foot traffic has been slow and the number of visits to this day is still around only half of pre-pandemic levels.

Visits vs. Revenue

Even though the company has experienced a slower “post-covid” footfall recovery than other comparable brands, its management has been able to transition most of its business to models that didn’t require in-person visits.

For example: while in Q2 2021 foot traffic was still 49.2% lower than in Q2 2019, revenues were 31.9% higher than pre-pandemic levels. In particular, the management’s ability to quickly transition the business can be seen in Q2 and Q3 2020. In the hardest months of the COVID-19 crisis, the company was able to lose only 4.8% of revenue in Q2 compared to the previous year. From the following quarter (Q3 2020) they had already outgrown pre-pandemic levels by 14.09% and started a streak of positive growth that took them to a 38.67% revenue YoY increase in Q2 2021.

Chart 2: foot traffic & revenue in Q1–4 2021 compared with Q1–4 2019

Q3 Visits Analysis

The restaurants that are present in the Almanac Platform accumulated a total of 63.6 Million visits over the last quarter. This represents a 4.97% growth in foot traffic compared to Q2 2021. Even though this quarter’s footfall data shows a significant increase in traffic compared to last years’ (37.69% growth YoY) it’s still distant from pre-pandemic levels. More specifically, in Q3 2021 the Mexican fast food chain experienced only 50.72% of the total number of visits of Q3 2019.

Chart 3: graph with comparison of Q3 2019, Q3 2020, Q3 2021.

In the last 2 quarters despite the low levels in foot traffic (42.47% and 50.79% of pre-pandemic levels, in Q1 and Q2 respectively) the company was able to generate significant revenue (133.13% and 131.95% of pre-pandemic levels, in Q1 and Q2 respectively). Given the comparable levels of foot traffic we believe the company will be able to keep up the positive trend in revenue growth, reporting revenue in the neighbourhood of $1.9Bln, representing around 30% increase on pre-pandemic revenue.

Q4 predictions – Looking ahead

Thanks to Olvin’s platform we can assess the foot traffic performance of Chipotle restaurants in the U.S. for the first 17 days of October and the prediction for visits throughout the quarter. In Q4 we predict a more rapid increase in visits. More precisely, in the first 17 days of October we have registered visits in excess of 12 million, or 41.32% lower than pre-pandemic levels. While this number might seem discouraging, it is actually a positive sign given the 49.28% deficit experienced in the previous quarter (Q3 2021 vs. Q3 2019).

Our prediction is that the company will close the quarter with around 61% of pre-pandemic foot traffic, which represents a great opportunity for further revenue growth in Q4. Given its past performance, it’s not unrealistic to assume that the company’s management will be able to navigate the increase in visits and capitalize on it to improve both its top and bottom line.

The Path to The New Normal

Looking at both the levels of revenue and net income that the company has generated we might say that the company already reached its new normal. While this might be true in some ways, the constant increase in foot traffic not only in Chipotle stores, but throughout its category shows that the “New Normal” is still to come. While it’s not possible to predict exactly what it will look like, it’s a really interesting thought experiment trying to understand whether the line in the following graph will ever reach a positive growth on pre-pandemic levels.

Notes on methodology and data sources

  • Foot traffic data used in this analysis regards 1043 restaurants which is around 40% of Chipotle’s restaurants present in the United States. Being present in each state and distributed across 65 metropolitan areas, we believe this sample to be representative of the company’s overall performance.
  • Olvin collects data points from more than 240 million devices all over the U.S. and analyzed by Olvin. Users can access the data through our platform: Almanac.

Olvin Limited (“Olvin”), the Almanac platform (“Almanac”) and any subsidiaries or parent organizations do not provide financial advice. Olvin’s aim is to simplify and forecast information about foot traffic, enabling each user to make educated decisions on the future behavior and demand of consumers. We do not take responsibility for individual investment decisions, profits, or losses.

 

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Olvin

Olvin is an AI-powered solution focussed on predicting consumer intent. It leverages billions of real-world data points in a powerful yet easy to use platform. This enables businesses of all sizes to understand what drives their customers in the real world.

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